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7 holiday gifts for legacy media

10 December 2012 · By Anette Novak

Getting a jump on the jolly old elf by delivering a sack full of timely tidbits for news executives this holiday season.

For most people in the Western hemisphere, Christmas is a peak time of the year for joy and hope. This holiday carries the promise of peace and happiness.

For some, this translates into the expectation of prosperity – or at least some nice presents.

Even though Christmas is still two weeks away, I wish to drop news media executives across the globe a bag full of seasonal gifts. My advice is to unwrap these packages fast – since they might just help your struggling operations in their search for the light at the end of the long and murky restructuring tunnel:

Gift No. 1: Stories around the fireplace.

There is one element that has withstood civilisation’s changes since the beginning of time: our thirst for stories. Our urge to gather and to listen to them. Our happiness when we share the best ones.

According to future scientist Rolf Jensen (@rolfjensen_dk) — whom I quoted in my last post, “Why we must tell the stories consumers long to hear” — telling amazing stories will be the sharpest tool in the box when we enter the “dream society.”

This society is a place where new individualists experiment on how far they can go in reinventing themselves, in their never-ending quest for an optimised life. A unique and plus-que-parfait “me.”

Quality content is, in this digital subscription launch era, absolutely business-critical.

You know how to. So start telling those amazing stories.

Gift No. 2: Great new toys.

In the early days, when most people in the industry started out, we had very few storytelling tools. We would direct a camera toward a man in an armchair, reading from a book. Or we would start writing big chunks of text.

Today, the number of digital tools accessible to enhance our storytelling capacity never stops growing. And many of these tools are free!

In the beginning of this year, while moderating the WAN-IFRA #DagsVara12 conference in Stockholm, I had the privilege of listening to Andreas Ehn, part of the founding team of digital music service Spotify, which disrupted the record industry.

He and colleague Magnus Hult talked about how often Spotify changes the digital tools it uses. Constantly re-evaluating the platforms and services you use, constantly incorporating technological improvements to them, will give you the edge over the competition.

So grab all the tools you can to create a new, digital, interactive style of storytelling that leaves no one unaffected.

Gift No 3: Booming digital audiences.

In the pre-Internet era, you controlled your market and your market share. Sometimes factors beyond your reach would impact your business negatively: A big industry in the area closed, resulting in high unemployment, less buying power, exodus, etc.

Today, in the connected, globalised world where there is no geography other than the ones dictated by our hearts, your market could be booming.

If you are a local or regional news outlet, you can suddenly reach your globally dispersed audiences, with products and services.

Congratulations on all your new, potential readers, B2B and B2C customers!

Gift No. 4: Business-critical know-how.

Traditional news operations might be branded “old media” and we might call ourselves newsosaurs. But even though you may not move as quickly or take on as much risk as the start-ups, you have assets they don’t: knowledge and experience.

By watching the errors of some of these disruptive rivals, it actually becomes easier to detect what we do well. Previously hidden competences in the media houses start to emerge, for example:

  • A solid, structured approach to the content mix (assuring balance in gender, ages, political views, etc.).

  • An ability to guide a non-media person through a sensitive interview situation, keeping that person’s trust.

Please feel free to add your own examples in the comments field below.

And if it is any comfort, the start-ups are not doing better on the business development side than legacy media, according to a study published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

On top of the fact that your hidden, in-house know-how is business-critical, it is also a valuable asset demanded by new clients in new markets.

Gift No. 5: Piggy bank.

Many of you still have some savings left – invest your way out of the dead-end.

Unfortunately, as margins narrow, so does the risk-taking. And we don’t see the bold investments in digital innovation the industry so desperately needs.

Instead we applaud savings and cut-downs – and hand out bonuses to those who carry them out.

Stop rewarding actions that are leading to industry collapse by enriching already wealthy executives soon approaching retirement. Instead, put everything you can into innovation.

Invest in the future, not the past.

Gift No. 6: Credibility.

Your brands still stand for trustworthiness, and it becomes even more obvious when the amount of content being produced outside legacy media explodes. Even if it is a blogger who publishes a scoop – the majority of the audience does not consider it “true” until a major news outlet relays the story.

It took more than 100 years to build this credibility. It is one of the most precious gifts in the bag – use it wisely.

Now that you have unwrapped all your presents, the room is filled with opportunities.

But wait! There is one last gift there at the bottom of the bag.

Gift No. 7: Joy.

We are living in exciting times, connecting the world, empowering every citisen. We have the knowledge of humanity at our fingertips.

We are learning and growing together.

So grab your favourite partners, the ones who allow you to play with as many of these gifts as possible. Exploit the opportunities. Innovate, develop, experiment.

It’s great fun!

Let’s stop moping and pitying ourselves, once and for all. We are not “old” media. We are the reliable, experienced media – capable of delivering caviar content.

So what are we waiting for?

Happy holidays, everyone!

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About this blog

I am Anette Novak, CEO of Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, which conducts world-class applied research and innovation, creating groundbreaking user experiences. Also, I am an international media consultant, World Editors Forum board member, gourmet, long distance runner and Francophile – mainly because the Parisians walk and talk as fast as I do. I am former editor-in-chief of the Swedish regional media house Norran. I believe in digital opportunities for publishers, open innovation. The future belongs to media companies that are able to maintain the trust of the audience, who define themselves as active community players, and who are able to create amazing experiences.


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